In an all-out push, the Churchill County Parks and Recreation Department aims to re-energize its ski program.
The yearly grouping allows children — whether experienced on the slopes or not — to head up to the Sierra Mountains and kick up some powder on their skis or snowboards.
The program, however, is suffering from low participation as numbers have consistently been dropping over the past several years.
According to Recreation Supervisor Danny Gleich, last season’s average was about 24 children, down from 50 in 2012 and 100 about 10 years ago.
One trip last season had only 16 children take part.
“In the past, we’ve been able to have two buses,” Gleich said. “We are hoping a good winter to bring more kids. Six years ago, when I started, we had about 50 kids. I feel a part of that may be there are so many other things to do.”
The reasons are plentiful — economics, lack of snow, travel, going to different resorts — but Gleich and the department are determined to get the program back on track.
More advanced skiers and riders, meanwhile, choose larger, more challenging resorts such as Northstar and Heavenly to name a few.
If not, the county may be forced to shutter the long-time winter tradition.
“Buying a lift ticket isn’t the cheapest thing in the world,” Gleich said. “There was a whole, five, six, seven-year gap where kids just weren’t interested in snowboarding because they weren’t introduced to it. We are hoping, now that the economy has recovered a little bit, is to pull those kids back in.
“We are hoping to pull in a new, younger group who will start to be interested in it a little more.”
At least for the past 15 years, the program has trekked up the hill to Diamond Peak on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore outside Incline Village and about 25 minutes west from Northstar in Truckee.
The county’s 2015 campaign begins Jan. 10 and also runs on Jan. 24, Feb. 7 and 21. The four dates is down from the usual five due to subsiding numbers.
To counter dwindling participation, Gleich is hitting various forms of advertising with flyers, word-of-mouth and social media among other avenues.
In addition, the program cut the number of days visiting Diamond Peak from five to four, which as an added benefit, reduces the cost for parents and children to ski.
This year’s packages run from $160 (ages 8-14) and $180 (15-17) for individuals who just need transportation and a lift ticket. A third package for $200 covers rentals, a half-day lesson, lift ticket and transportation.
The cost benefit, Gleich said, is much better than choosing to buy a single-day lift ticket at just about any resort where prices can run as high as $68-$95 for children and teens.
“We do it based on what they needs of the people are,” Gleich said of the ticket packages. “If kids already know what they are doing … we’ll just bring them up there, give a lift ticket and let them go have fun. We want to make sure they want to come back.”
One of Gleich’s selling points, though, is the experience and fun of skiing or snowboarding. Although snow fall has been minimal to date, another storm is expected this weekend in the Sierra, which will help with the base totals.
For parents, Gleich said it provides an opportunity for adults to themselves to run errands, work around the house or have a break, while the county wears out the youngsters.
“It gives parents a day away to get errands or chores done,” he added. “It gives them a nice, quiet house to do that.”
The program, though, also needs chaperones to assist with the children on the slopes. A free lift ticket is included.
On the mountain, Gleich said the children work with a buddy system to ensure each child returns to the base and no one gets lost. The county leaves the Churchill County Pool at 7 a.m. and returns around 5 p.m. for each trip. Children are asked to be at the pool by 6:30 a.m.
For information or to be a chaperone, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 775-423-7733.